Nitrogen is the primary pollutant of concern in Sarasota Bay. Algae growth in the Bay responds quickly to elevated concentrations of nitrogen. While some algae growth is normal in an estuary, uncontrolled growth leads to declines in water quality and can eventually cause reductions in seagrass habitats.
In the late 1980s, wastewater discharges contributed more nitrogen to Sarasota Bay than any other source. With the consolidation of wastewater treatment into regional plants using advanced treatment procedures, nitrogen pollution to the Bay from wastewater was dramatically reduced. Today, with almost complete elimination of wastewater discharges to Sarasota Bay, the SBEP's water quality enhancement goals have shifted to reducing nitrogen pollution in stormwater runoff.